[ Carolyn's Home Page ] [ Main Abortion Page ] [ Guestbook] [ E-Mail ]

Does the Fetus Feel Pain?
Summary of a presentation given by Dr. Paul Ranalli on "Pain, Fetal Development, and Partial-birth abortion" on June 27, 1997. (I personally attended this presentation). Related links are included below.

The fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. This is probably a conservatively late estimate, but it is scientifically solid. Elements of the pain-conveying system (spino-thalamic system) begin to be assembled at 7 weeks; enough development has occurred by 12-14 weeks that some pain perception is likely, and continues to build through the second trimester. By 20 weeks, the spino- thalamic system is fully established and connected.

There are three different indicators providing evidence that the fetus feels pain.

  1. Anatomical
      - pain receptors spread over the body in stages: 8-16 weeks
      - pain impulse connections in the spinal cord link up and reach the thalamus (the brain's reception center): 7-20 weeks (summarized by Anand, K.J.S., Atlanta)

  2. Physiological/Hormonal
      - fetuses withdraw from painful stimulation
      - two types of stress hormones, normally released by adults subjected to pain, are released by adults subjected to pain, are releases in massive amounts by the fetus subjected to a needle puncture to draw a blood sample:
       (a) from 19 weeks onward (N. Fisk; London, England)
       (b) from 16 weeks onward (J. Partch; Kiel, Germany)

  3. Behavioral
      - withdraw from pain
      - change in vital signs

    A 20-30 week old fetus actually will feel more pain than an adult. The period between 20-30 weeks is a uniquely vulnerable time, since the pain system is fully established, yet the higher level pain-modifying system has barely begun to develop.

    Below is a graphical represenation depicting this mis-match in pain detection and pain modification

    Fetal Pain Chart

    Dr. Paul Ranalli is a neurologist at the University of Toronto and acting president of the de Veber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research. He is also Vice-President of Canadian Physicians For Life

    Additional Information
    In testimony before the House Constitution Subcommittee, Professor Robert White confirmed that the 'fetus within this time frame of gestation, 20 weeks and beyond, is fully capable of experiencing pain.... Without question, all of this is a dreadfully painful experience for any infant subjected to such a surgical procedure."

    [ Carolyn's Home Page ] [ Main Abortion Page ] [ E-Mail ]